Are you looking to change the tires on your motorcycle?
Knowing if the tires have tubes in them or not is important as that will change what you need to buy and what you need to do to successfully change the tires.
So, are there tubes in motorcycle tires?
Tubes are very common in motorcycle tires. In fact, there are two main types of motorcycle tires, tubed and tubeless. Tubed tires are usually used on spoked wheels while tubeless tires are usually used on one piece alloy or steel wheels.
Read on to learn more about which motorcycles that usually have tubed or tubeless tires as well as how to tell if a motorcycle have tubed tires or not.
What Are Tubed Tires?
Tube-type tires are also called traditional tires and are very popular among riders who enjoy the vintage look on their bikes. It’s also used on almost every off-road motorbike.
Tubed tires uses a separate inner air-holding item called a tube which when inflated puts pressure on the outer rubber, i.e. the tire that’s in contact with the ground.
The tube is flexible and soft so that it can fit inside the tire, while the outside of a tire should be strong enough to withstand miles of riding. Therefore, the tire uses two types of rubber for two different tasks.
How to Tell if Motorcycle Tires Have Tubes?
Determining whether your tire has a tube or not is not quantum physics. There are many ways to tell whether the motorbikes tires is tubed or tubeless. Here is a list of some of these methods;
1. Engravings on the tire
When you look at the motorcycle tire, you will see the tire type engraved on the sidewalls. TT means tubed tire while TL means tubeless tire. However, heat and friction may sometimes erase the engravings, making you unable to see them.
If that has happened to you, don’t worry. There are more ways to check for tubed tires:
2. Loose valve system
All tube tires have somewhat loose valve systems. Once you open this air valve, there is a visible gap between the rim and the valve. Unlike tube-type tires, tubeless tires have airtight valves, and they do not have any space between the rim and the valve.
3. The wheel has spokes
If you are a bike enthusiast, you have seen the traditional spokes almost all your life. First, check the rim pattern to determine whether your bike has a tube or is tubeless. The tire is tubeless if the rim is a single cast-alloy without wire spokes.
If the rim has traditional spokes, chances are it has a tube unless the rider installs classic-looking tubeless tires that are very expensive. However, using this method to determine tube tires can be confusing, considering riders switch their tubeless tires to tubes today.
4. If the tire has a “Tubeless” marking, it’s likely not a tube in the tire
If your tire has the mark “Tubeless” on it, it usually means that it doesn’t have a tube.
5. Feel the tires inner layers
If you have been working with tires for a long time, you can touch their inner layers to determine if they are tubeless or not. Touching the inner layers lets you know if your bike tires are tube or tubeless.
Tube-type tires have fewer layers because the tubes are not prone to leakages like their counterparts.
Why Are Motorcycles Using Tubed Tires on Spoked Wheels?
Off-road bikes are more exposed to hazards on tubeless tires than tubed ones. Therefore, tube-type tires offer more advantages over tubeless ones, which explains their popularity today. Tube wheels with spokes have the stability and power to hold up on rough terrains. Where there are spoke wheels, there are tubes.
The spokes add structural support to handle jumps, obstacles, and sharp bends on different terrains. High-end adventure bikes use spoked wheels and are better when used with tubed tires. Other bikes with tubes are retro-style cruisers with a perfect classic look from the spoked wires.
Because there are small holes in the rim where the spokes attach to it, usually spoke wheels must have tubed tires. If you try to put a tubeless tire on a spoke wheel air will sip out through these small holes. There are ways to make a spoked wheel tubeless, but it’s fairly complex (more on how this is done later).
What Are Motorcycle Tire Tubes Made Of?
Motorcycle inner tubes are made from two types of rubber: butyl rubber and natural rubber. While these types of rubber are both similar, some riders can only pick a specific one for reasons known to them.
To start, Butyl rubber is a synthetic rubber that combines some elements of natural rubber. These tubes are more flexible than natural rubber ones and age better with time. In addition, they are almost resistant to punctures.
Natural rubber is also a good option and provides great wear resistance, elasticity, and higher tensile strength. However, natural rubber perishes quicker than synthetic rubber and can barely cope with high temperatures.
Therefore, the best tube type depends on the preference of the rider. Some riders believe in natural rubber because they get few punctures and conform better with tire profiles. Others also believe synthetic rubber is better because it lasts longer and works best at varying temperatures.
Which Motorcycles Usually Comes With Tubes?
Generally, as explained earlier, off-roading motorbikes comes with tubed tires because of their trail friendliness. They make it easier to do stunts, barrel rolls, and many more. Vintage looking bikes with spokes usually comes with tubed tires as well.
Are There Motorcycle Tires Without Tubes?
Another question most people ask is whether all motorcycle tires have tubes. The answer is no, not all motorcycle tires have tubes. Some are tubeless and pretty common in today’s riding industry. However, many riders still prefer vintage-looking tube tires.
However, tubeless tires offer more advantages which have increased their demand. New riders are therefore focusing more on tubeless tires.
What Are Tubeless Tires?
Tubeless tires are modern pneumatic tires built with complete air-leakage-proof technology.
Tubeless tires are built with multiple ribs that are molded integrally into the bead of the tire (the part of the tire that has contact with the rim), when the tire becomes pressurized by air the tire will then seal with the flanges of the rim, holding the pressure inside.
One of the best features of these tires is that they keep your motorcycle stable if it punctures. If something pierces them, they do not deflate instantly.
They also require less maintenance than tube tires, saving you a lot of money in the long run. But unfortunately, these tires do not offer the best grip, which is why off-roaders prefer using vintage tube-type tires.
Can You Make Tube Tires Tubeless?
If you are prone to riding in environments that subject the motorcycle to frequent punctures, you can convert it’s wheels to be tubeless even if it has spokes.
However, converting a vintage spoked wheel into a tubeless one is a detailed process that requires massive skills and craftsmanship. In addition, sealing any leakages is challenging but necessary for the conversion process.
During the conversion, please note that this is a safety-critical item that you cannot compromise its integrity and that of your bike. If you are doing everything on your own; here is a quick process;
- Remove the tire and the tube from the rim
- Apply sealant on the spoke nipples
- Use the supplied tape to create an extra layer of seal over the sealed spoke nipples.
- Fit the new tubeless tire onto the rim. A new tire must conform to the wheel size like the old tube and tire. Any size variations will cause more problems.
- The rim also must precisely align with the hub because even the slightest misalignment could cause the air seal to break and the tire to deflate.
Here’s a great video showing you how to convert a tubed motorcycle rim to a tubeless one:
The more you learn about your motorcycle, the more you will enjoy using it. Considering you will spend most of your time on the road or in the mountains, you must find the perfect tires for the job.
Hopefully, this post has answer all your questions about tubed motorcycle tires. In essence, for off-roading, go for tires with tubes as they will perform better in such environments. For regular road driving, go for tubeless tires as they will privide a smoother ride and are less prone to punctures.
Hi, my name is Niklas, the head content creator & CEO of Whirling Wheelz. I am very interested in vehicles of all kinds, mainly cars. I have a car mechanics degree from high school and a big hobby of mine is to follow the WRC (World Rally Championship) both online and through travel.